"I think that things in dance music and djing should always be reassessed in order for them to grow and not get stale"
Tyrel Williams takes early twenty years of playing music for crowds large and small has evolved a style of Djing that seamlessly fuses the best of classic and modern dance music. Over time, Williams has earned the reputation of a DJ devoted to the art of mixing and selecting music without regard to ephemeral fashion, trends or fads.
Hi Tyrel! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day?
I am chilling in my room after some dinner and listening to the Upperground Orchestra record called “Euganea”. I started my day with some morning yoga before working from home under the lock down we have going on in SF.
How did you first get into electronic music? Was it your first real musical love or were you a keen
listener of all sounds when you were younger?
I was always interested in music at a young age. I have my older brother, sister, and mom to thank for this. I was exposed to lots of different styles and MTV was a huge part of that as well.
What were your first experiences as a DJ?
My first experiences were playing house parties and eventually some parties at Northern Illinois University for some friends that lived off campus when I was in High School. Then I got some gigs playing random bars and restaurants in Chicago in the early 2000’s.
How did you start experimenting with electronic music?
My brother made me a tape in the early 90’s full of L.F.O, Todd Terry, 2 Bad Mice, basically all the underground rave hits at the time, This was the first time I heard electronic music and I was 9 years old. I did not really get it at that age, but kept that tape and it became one of my favorite tapes as I got older.
How did your parents react to all this?
My parents were very supportive. My mom bought me my first Gemini turntables and Numark mixer in the late 90’s. My dad put up with me staying up super late and mixing records in our basement. Even made me a table to put all my equipment on.
How much and in what way did Chicago have an impact on your music?
Living in Chicago and working at Gramaphone Records was like music bootcamp. I would not be who I am and where I am today without Chicago and everyone there.
Smart Bar has a very specific view on the dance floor.
Do you think electronic music should be taken out of context (out of the club)? Should we reassess dance music?
I find that this is a constant issue that I have in just playing what I want and not sticking to the djing structure that I am so used to. I think that things in dance music and djing should always be reassessed in order for them to grow and not get stale.
What is your music criterion?
Hard to put in words. It is more of a feeling when I hear a track rather then a specific criterion.
How can you explain the existence of this increasingly present parallel between antiquity and novelty?
I believe that you can not move forward unless you know the past. I hear a lot of new music that comes out that takes elements from the past and brings it to a newer level. When I DJ I always try to include older material in my sets with newer material as well.
Do you think DJs can ever be true artists, or how would you describe their role?
Yes, I think it is up to the specific DJ to decide what role they want to play, but I do think DJ’s can be true artists.
Are the travels and your altered living conditions have an influence on the way you are producing?
Yea, I feel like once I moved from Chicago to SF that it changed the way I played and also the music that was being made. Chicago roots will always be there, but now with an SF twist.
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
Sure... This was an all wax set I recorded for Squirrels on Film recently. I have been having some creative blocks when recording, so decided to take a little mushrooms and just record with C.L.A.W.S. hanging out in my room. This was the result:
What makes a good mix to you?
I like hearing mixes that are not so perfect but go off beat here and there as I feel too many mixes are being made on computers and always sound way too perfect. We are human after all.
Who or what influenced you to get into the music industry?
Going to Raves in the late 90’s in Chicago. I caught the tail end of the good years, but it really had an impact on me and how I viewed community in the music scene.
What have been the most influential factors on your career so far?
My most influential factors have been my friends, family, San Francisco, and Chicago.
How do you search for the music that you play in your sets, and how much time do you spend looking for music?
I play 90% of vinyl and have about 6,500 records organized to a way that I can find what I am looking for. I can spend an hour or two a day for 5 days before I feel content with what is in my bag for a gig. Sometimes spending even more time depending on how long the set is.
Where was your favorite place to play, what was your most interesting gig, and for what reason?
I love Smartbar in Chicago and F8 in SF. The people that work at these places and the vibe these clubs have are my favorite. My most interesting gig was playing at a car wash for an after party in Medellin with Solar.
What makes you happy?
What makes me happy can vary day to day, but as long as I can stick to a daily practice, I find that keeps me centered and happy.
What can you tell us about the seal you carry with C.L.A.W.S .: Immortal Sin?
Brian and I share a studio and it was a very organic thing to happen. We first started a party together called Fleurs Du Mal, then making tons of music, and then the next logical thing was the label.
What is your philosophy? What is your criteria for selecting artists?
We mainly want to release material that you typically would not hear of the artist on other labels. Production that goes beyond what they typically do and is super freaky and heavy.
What was the last record store you visited and what did you keep there?
The last shop I visited was Pyramid Records in SF and I bought a few Moev 12” singles that I had been wanting for a while.
How do you deal with C19 confinement with your work?
I am fortunate enough to work from home, so it has not been too bad. However, I find my creativity is lacking. I hope to find it soon.
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
Terry Riley “A Rainbow in Curved Air”
Steve Reich “Music for 18 Musicians”
What projects are you working on at the moment?
C.L.A.W.S. and myself have been working on lots of music over the last year or so. Our next release on Immortal Sin is Bill Converse, which should be out in the next 6 months. Also, working on a new record for my other project called Secret Studio with Bryan Balli.